Wednesday 24 April 2019, 23:50

England legend Smith reflects on journey from player to pundit

  • Kelly Smith burst onto the scene at the 2007 Women’s World Cup

  • The FIFA Legend will be a USA TV analyst during France 2019

  • Believes this will be the best Women’s World Cup ever

World Cups can change lives. They can propel players to levels of stardom they may have never experienced before, and can create memories that are looked back on years later. Just ask FIFA Legends Squad Member Kelly Smith what she thinks of the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, and the answer is a glowing one.

“The Women’s World Cup is the pinnacle for me, it just doesn’t get better and there is no higher level,” she says.

“The Olympics was a great experience, but as a footballer, the World Cup is ahead of everything, I just took such pride in pulling on that England shirt and singing the national anthem every time I had the chance.”

Smith played in two World Cups, but it was her first in 2007 that elevated her to a level of recognition that she had never previously received on a global scale.

Four goals in China PR 12 years ago ensured that, if people didn’t know who Kelly Smith was before the tournament, they certainly did after.

Those experiences in China and at Germany 2011 make the Arsenal legend the perfect person to be a pundit for this year’s World Cup when, for the second tournament running, she will be working for USA TV broadcaster Fox to analyse this year’s competition.

Joining the likes of World Cup winners Ariane Hingst and Christie Pearce, and also fellow FIFA Legend Karina LeBlanc, Smith will be absorbing as much information between now and the big kick-off in Paris on 7 June as she prepares to put her analytical hat on and try to provide informative and interesting insight for those tuning in from home.

She admitted that the preparation for analysing games as a pundit, is very different to preparing for a team when taking to the field.

“When you’re a player you are just focusing on the next opposition and your own game, so in England’s case, there will be a lot of focus on that first game with Scotland.

“There will be scouts watching Japan and Argentina, but as a player, once you’ve played Scotland, you watch the game back to learn from it, learn from your mistakes and take the positives.

“As an analyst, you have to have a tab on most teams. You’re constantly looking at line-ups, reading match reports and manager’s statements. You really have to keep your eye on the game from afar and watch as much as you can.”

Keeping tabs on the 24 nations participating this year can be quite challenging, which is why Smith and her broadcast team are provided with monthly newsletters that give them a condensed roundup of what has been going on in the world of women’s football. They even have access to a database that allows them to watch back international matches that they may have missed.

While the biggest learning any player will take is on the field, England’s record goalscorer confessed that moving into punditry had given her a wider view of the women’s game.

“I have a broader knowledge of what’s going on around the world, because when you’re playing, you’re just focusing on yourself and your own performances – I just wanted to win trophies.

“As a pundit, I’m trying to breakdown the game and be informative for the public.”

Kelly Smith of England celebrates scoring the first goal for England against Japan

So having experienced the highs and lows of playing in a World Cup, does Smith have any envy as the Lionesses prepare to try and win their first major trophy?

Perhaps a little.

“I’m excited about this World Cup because I think it’s going to be the best ever in terms of quality on the field,” she said.

“There is a tiny little bit of me that would love to be out there playing, but, when I’m watching a match now, I am doing it just for the pure love of the game.

“I know what it’s like to be in the tunnel, walking out proud wearing your country’s shirt. I still get that emotion and buzz even just watching England games, and I can’t wait to see what they do at this World Cup.”